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The art of the movie makeover (RIP, Brittany Murphy)

December 21, 2009

I was sad to hear about Brittany Murphy’s untimely death on Sunday afternoon. Her resume wasn’t full of award-winning movies (Little Black Book and Uptown Girls, anyone?), but there are some classics on her IMDB page, including Girl, Interrupted, Sin City and, of course, Clueless.

Clueless is, without a doubt, one of my top 10 favorite movies. (Other movies on this list range from The Wizard of Oz to The Godfather.) In a time when grunge ruled the scene, Amy Heckerling took a more modern approach to the fictional high schoolers’ wardrobes, and it paid off. Clueless was a sleeper hit, and spawned the sales of dozens of pairs of knee-highs. I even dressed up as Cher once for a costume party. Clueless‘ quotes are recognizable even today (quite a feat for a teen movie).

In addition to its plethora of quotable quotes, Clueless also holds a special place in my heart for its makeover montage – my all-time favorite one, in fact. Tai is that awkward grungy kid who smokes pot, and Alicia Silverstone’s Cher transforms her into quite the “Betty.” It may not be the absolute greatest movie makeover of all time, but as the first one I remember seeing, it will always hold my No. 1 spot.

So, because I love lists, here are my top 10 favorite movie makeover montage scenes. Feel free to disagree, add your own or argue with me.
10. Mrs. Doubtfire: Helllooooooo!

This movie also holds a special place in my heart from childhood – remember that scene when Robin Williams cleans the house to Aerosmith? My family actually did that in real life. Anyway, the scene when the two gay guys try to create Robin Williams’ alter ego is priceless. I love all the different faces they go through to achieve the one, and the nostalgia factor alone bumped this one onto the list. I always wondered if whipped cream would work as a facial cream. I’m guessing it wouldn’t. Other great cross-dressing movies: Victor/Victoria, Tootsie and She’s the Man.

9. My Fair Lady: The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.

The classic makeover movie with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. I’m not sure what else there is to say about this one. It’s been remade in musicals and I feel like the most difficult thing about this film was making Audrey Hepburn look homely. That Cockney accent is quite distinct though, huh?

8. Mean Girls: On Wednesdays, we wear pink.

I think it goes without saying that we all miss the Lindsay Lohan of Mean Girls. This movie (which I consider to be the 2000’s equivalent of Clueless) was basically the pinnacle of her career, which is a little depressing. Regardless, her makeover from “home-schooled jungle freak” to “a regulation hottie,” is a cinematic classic. From “get in, loser, we’re going shopping” to the Mathlete rap, Mean Girls is basically just one big makeover movie with dozens of memorable quotes. Mean Girls is a great example of how you dress affects how you’re perceived in high school (you know it’s true!). Long live the Plastics!

7. Funny Face: Take the picture, take the picture!

Another Audrey Hepburn movie. Can you really blame me? A fashion photographer, in search of an intellectual model to photograph, meets nerdy bookshop keeper Jo Stockton and ends up offering her a modeling contract, which she accepts. Jo travels to Paris and becomes much more amenable to the job (as well as interpretive dancing). Oh Audrey. Stop pretending you’re bookish and homely and own it. (Also, as a sidenote: why are all bookish people automatically ugly and/or not living up to their full potential in the looks department? Just something to think about.)

6. Miss Congeniality: I am in a dress, I have gel in my hair, I haven’t slept all night, I’m starved AND I’m armed! Don’t MESS with me!

One of the most important things in a makeover is The Reveal. Miss Congeniality has a great one. The tarmac, Mustang Sally and Michael Caine … need I say more? Poor Sandra Bullock had to don a unibrow and portray one of the most awkward characters in movie history. (Poor Gracie Hart didn’t even own a brush.) And Michael Caine is fabulous as her pageant coordinator: “Smilers wear a crown. Losers wear a frown.” Gracie Hart found out she could be an FBI agent and still look classy – and we all learned that the best day for a date is April 25 – “because it’s not too hot, and not too cold. All you need is a light jacket.”

5. Sabrina: A woman happily in love, she burns the soufflé. A woman unhappily in love, she forgets to turn on the oven.

This is the last Audrey Hepburn movie, I swear. She’s not my all-time favorite actress (I feel like that’s so cliche), but she’s up there. I love this transformation more than the others because she goes all the way to France to find herself and then realizes she’s in love with a different man than she had originally thought. I hate the remake, though, and may never forgive Harrison Ford for his involvement. Hepburn is the epitome of class after her transformation from a lovesick teenager to a sophisticated woman. If you haven’t seen this film yet, you’re missing out.

4. Pretty Woman: You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.

Hooker with a heart of gold? Check. Dapper businessman who can see past the possible STDs? Check. Iconic shopping setting? Check. Pretty Woman is, quite simply amazing. I actually originally had this at No. 5, and had to bump it up. Regardless, Pretty Woman remains my all-time favorite Julia Roberts movie to this day. The style is totally dated, but it remains a classic. What woman can watch this shopping scene and not want to swipe some plastic? Once Vivian got rid of all that make-up and toned the hair down (OK, not too much toning down – this was 1990, after all), she was a classy, classy lady.

3. Grease: Tell me about it. Stud.

No movie makeover list would be complete without this one. Sandy goes from a preppy cheerleader to a Pink Lady just in time for Rydell High’s graduation fair. Ah, what some people do for love… In all seriousness though, how can you not appreciate John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in this one? Sandy rocks that leather catsuit better than pretty much anyone else could.


The ultimate second chance movie, Drew Barrymore alternates between her ’80s self (“Josie Grossie,” in flashbacks) and the nerdy copy editor she became. (Why are the copy editors nerdy? Why?) But when she gets the chance to go back to high school as an undercover reporter, Josie finally gets the chance to be popular. It takes a few months (and several unfortunate wardrobe choices), but she finally gets to be part of the “in crowd.” And, in grand cinematic tradition, she finds out that being popular isn’t worth it. Luckily, she’s already gotten the makeover.

1. Clueless: Cher loves a makeover! It gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos.

In addition to the awesomeness that is this makeover scene, this film contains the line that converted my dad into a Clueless fan: “If anything happens to my daughter, I’ve got a .45 and a shovel. I doubt anyone would miss you.” The fact that this line was delivered to Cher’s date (who is actually gay) makes it even more priceless.

Rest in peace, Brittany Murphy. Thank you for the flannel, the red hair and refusing to do “Buns of Steel.” Thank you for baring your midriff in Cher’s clothes and refusing to date Elton just because he was cool. Thanks for being the impetus behind my favorite movie makeover of all time, and for not being afraid to take down Cher: “Why should I listen to you? You’re a VIRGIN who CAN’T DRIVE.” I’m not sure anything will be able to compete with Cher’s eponymous makeover.


One Comment leave one →
  1. December 21, 2009 2:02 pm

    Great list. I love the montage in The Sweetest Thing too that pokes a little fun at some of the makeovers on this list (Grease, Pretty Woman). I was shocked to hear Brittany Murphy died — I loved her in Riding in Cars with Boys and Girl, Interrupted.

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